Balancing Act

Replaying Xenoblade Chronicles on the Nintendo Wii U

One of my past time activity, in addition to wining and dining, photography and traveling is playing video games. Be it on the desktop computer, on an iOS device or traditional gaming console, if it's entertaining and captivating, I'll play it. Matter of fact, I am looking forward to this Sunday's release of Pikmin 3 by Nintendo for the Wii U.

After setting up our new 51" plasma HDTV and connecting it to our new 5.1 Blu-Ray home theater system, the next course of action was hooking up our Wii U. And let me tell you, playing Wii U games in 1080p high definition resolution is spectacular. The new home theater system kicked the sound experience up a notch and made gaming an engrossing experience, even with family-friendly titles such as New Super Mario Bros. U (particularly fun with 2+ players co-op mode).

However, I am not writing about Wii U gaming or gaming in general, I am writing about my experience replaying Xenoblade Chronicles, a game published for the classic Nintendo Wii, which I pre-ordered and received on release date. Playing it on the classic Wii and its 480p output on a clunky 7 year old HP LCD television set was underwhelming to say the least. What was suppose to be an all-engrossing epic jRPG game turned out to be a drag of epic proportion and a chore to sit through. One of the main reason was because I never thoroughly familiarize myself with the game's control.

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I learn how to play most video games intuitively: by jumping in and playing it. No tutorials or manuals needed. With Xenoblade, there are a multitude of rigmarole control mechanisms and character status and battle system altering toggles that made the game a far cry from being epic. The gigantic exploratory world in conjunction with the convoluted controls made me want to just toss my Wii Mote and call it quits, and that's what I did on and an on-off basis. After taking nearly a year to sit through and beat the game, I left it to collect dust and almost sold it at a point. That's until I decide to see what the Wii U can do with classic Wii games.

The Wii U upscales the graphic of Xenoblade and the new 51" plasma HDTV projects the world of Bionis and Mechonis in a breathtaking fashion of details. Vibrant color, lush landscapes and a spectacular world that could never be portrayed on the old 32" LCD television set dances with your optical sensors. Sure, the Wii U upscaling of Xenoblade produces some "jagged edges" and pixelated graphics since the native graphics were created and optimized for 480p output, but that's a none event and seemingly unnoticeable when I'm immersed in the background music and sound effects of the game as interpreted by our new 5.1 home theater system. The new set up brought forth a completely new experience, which prompted me to give Xenoblade another chance.

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Image from Xenoblade Wikia, (C) Michael Clark.

And that new chance was definitely well received. I took the time to learn the controls of Xenoblade. What I once perceived as a convoluted array of controls ranging from the battle system to character status enhancements and seemingly unlimited number of pointless side quests all came to light and made sense. No longer are chain attacks a mystery, nor are buffs/debuffs and Break, Topple or Daze. Need experience point on the fly? Hit up a few side quests.

The second run through the game lasted approximately 60 hours versus 9 months. I appreciate the game more and even the character and Mechon designs. In fact, my renewed appreciation for Xenoblade prompted me to import the art book (Xenoblade Archives: The MONADO Files) and game guide (Xenoblade Complete Guide), both in Japanese, and also its complete Original Sound Track.

I believe I can say with confidence that this has to be Tetsuya Takahashi's (director) and Monolith Soft's best work since Xenogears (1998) and a saving grace from the utter abomination that was the Xenosaga franchise for the PlayStation 2. Every aspect of Xenoblade was spot on: the story, the character development, design, world, music and art. If you have a Wii or a Wii U and are a fan of jRPG but haven't played Xenoblade, I recommend picking up a used copy if you can.

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